2 minute readDisaster, International, Volunteers

It’s Still Raining in the Balkans, But Families Move Forward

This blog post was written by Wendy Brightman, a Red Cross volunteer who deployed to Bosnia and Herzegovina to assist with cash distribution to families recovering from heavy flooding that occurred last spring. When she arrived a few weeks ago, it was still raining. September rains have continued to bring flooding to the same areas along the swollen rivers.

Mirad, his wife, and a Red Cross volunteerMirad Fsakovic and his family live in Brcko District—in a two-story home that has been in their family for three generations. As we entered the gate to their garden, the smell of sweet peppers came to us. Mirad was roasting several pounds of them on a grill made from an old washing machine drum. They purchased the peppers from a local farmer with some of the money provided by the Red Cross. We sat on benches near the grill as Mirad explained the night of the flood to us:

As the rain pounded, Mirad and his wife could see the water rising in the street, then into their garden and under the doors of their home. They moved to top floor—where their son, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter live—and continued to watch the water rise. Selma, 5, awoke to the thunder, rain and water coming up to the second floor balcony. Her parents and grandparents sang songs to her through the night. Selma said that she wasn’t afraid, but had wished she could go swimming and boating in the water. She is only sad that she lost most of her toys — some had been washed away, others were destroyed by mold and mildew. In the morning, the water had risen about four feet inside the house. Over the following days, it began to recede, leaving behind mud.

Mirad said that the money they received from the Red Cross—about $1,600—has helped them clean out their house, repair the floor with new tiles, purchase wood and a heating stove for winter, and pay their bills on time. They are still using dehumidifiers to dry the walls but it is going slowly. They are keeping a portion of the Red Cross money for the future, when the walls can be plastered and painted.

As I was leaving, Selma presented me with a drawing she made of her hands. She said she wanted me to have it to say thank you to the Red Cross—and then whispered, “Next time will you bring toys?”

A child's drawing

The family told me about all the support they received from their family and their community. Neighbors have helped them clean up and repair their house. In the coming months Mirad—who has carpentry skills—will repay this kindness by helping his neighbors with their repairs. “We know each family very well. We have lived here since my grandmother’s time. Whenever there is a problem we help each other.” With this community support and some cash from the Red Cross, the family will reach their goal of a repaired house, ready for winter.

The American Red Cross has contributed $710,000 to help people in the Balkans recover from the floods. Learn more >>